Be the Change You Wish to See in this World

“Be the change you wish to see in this world.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this quote before. You’ve probably seen it on the side of a coffee-stained mug, in flowery Pinterest script across a wall, or on a bumper sticker on the back of an old Honda Civic.

It’s often quoted as Gandhi but it’s actually a paraphrase of what he said. In a 2011 New York Times article Brian Morton wrote, “The closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi is this: ‘If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…We need not wait to see what others do.’”

Simple enough, right? Lead by example. Manage from the front. Show, don’t tell. All catchphrases in business we use when talking about how leaders should lead.

Yet the problem with this is that there are so many people out there that want the change, the growth, the transformation in their lives and yet very few people actually want to change.

“Be the change you wish to see in this world.”

Another idea: where we are in life and in business at this exact moment in time is actually a sum result of our habits. We are creatures of habit, whether or not we realize it. Literally everything in our lives from how we wake up, to what we eat, to how we react to problems, to how we talk is a habit developed over time.

Charles Duhigg talks about this in his book, The Power of Habit. He says, “How we eat and sleep and talk to our kids, how we unthinkingly spend our time, attention, and money — those are habits that we know exist. And once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom and the responsibility to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power of habit becomes easier to grasp.”

“Be the change you wish to see in this world.”

When I sold books door-to-door in college with Southwestern Advantage, my roommates and I used to wake up every day and literally race to the shower. Whoever made it first would take a quick, ice-cold shower while the other roommate would brush his teeth, and the other guy would crank out some pushups. We would get dressed and be out the door within 10 minutes of waking up.

But without fail, whether it was my first summer or my sixth summer, the very first time each season that alarm went off at 5:59 a.m. and I jumped out of bed, my body was so confused. Do you think that’s how I lived my life for the rest of the year? Answer: no. It always took a few weeks of that process, day after day, until all of a sudden one day I would wake up at 5:58 a.m. and smile because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I’d beat my roommates that morning out the door.

Studies have shown that it will always take sustained, consistent effort to make a habit out of any action. (Look up the 21-day habit myth.) And so while not a natural response to my normal morning routine, at some point during each summer, my body would all of a sudden have a new habit and it would feel normal to wake up and attack the day with such vigor.

“Be the change you wish to see in this world.”

If you stop to think about your life and the habits that have put you where you are, the question to ask is: are you happy with what you see?

Is there some area of life that you would like to improve? Is it financial? Do you want to give more, spend less, save more? Then find someone who can take a look at your finances with you and hold you accountable to a simple habit moving forward.  If it’s fitness and you want to eat better and work out more, then you could hire a personal trainer to help hold you accountable for developing the habit of working out and eating right. Is it spiritual? You could ask a mentor to follow up weekly and check in with your reading and quiet time. If it’s business, maybe it’s time to hire a coach and go to the next level.

So I’ll propose a simple challenge:

  • Choose an area of your life that you want to see some change in.
  • Reach out to a mentor, a friend, a coach, or someone to hold you accountable for developing the habits you want to see in your life.
  • Write it down. Plan out when/where/how you plan to do your action item(s).
  • Commit to the process for a short period of time. Decide that no matter what, you are going to follow through and just do this one thing for the next week.

But at the end of this, you have to realize to make a change, you are talking about changing habits. To be the change you wish to see in this world you actually have to look at what habits you want others to live in to. What habits do you need to change or form for others to model?

Live the habits you wish to see in this world.

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